POWER OF THE PRESS

Posted: November 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

This will appear in the Farmerville Gazette the week of 11/8/2015.

My love of writing and sharing experiences began many years ago. In the fourth grade I joined 4H and was elected reporter. Every month I would walk from my home in the middle of Farmerville to the Gazette office and present my 4H article to Ben Lee, the owner of the Gazette. These in turn would be published. I loved it and over time I discovered how much I enjoyed conveying a story. I thought of writing books and I thought of reporting a man-on-the-street report of Desert Storm. The latter I decided not to do fearing retribution from my company and the Saudi government even though a local daily paper had agreed to receive my posts.
I couldn’t understand why I wanted to write and equated it to my mother who told me to write every day and keep a journal of my life. Then when researching my first published book I realized that this desire to write was intrinsic and not a learned behavior and it came from my father’s side of the family.
Following the Civil War, my great grandfather moved from Danville, Kentucky to Marksville and started the first newspaper in Avoyelles Parish. My grandfather went to the northern part of the state to attend Louisiana Polytechnic Institute to obtain a degree in journalism. He then went to Tulane and obtained his law degree and began his practice; however, he fully realized the power of the press.
In the early 1900’s the telephone was virtually non-existent. There was not much more than the line between Stein’s Bluff and Daniel Steins General Store in Farmerville. It would not be until 1920 that radio began broadcasting in the United States. Mass communication consisted totally of the printed press, the newspaper. My grandfather realized how important the press was and how it could be used.
He witnessed firsthand the power of the press when his former law partner and friend Huey Long published a state paper and used that to promote his ideals. It was so successful that he launched it nationally under a new name and used it to promote his Share The Wealth Society and was posing a legitimate threat to the Roosevelt administration until his assassination.
In the 1930’s while he was Federal Prosecutor for the Western Province of Louisiana he had his offices in Shreveport. He had heard of underworld corruption in the Shreveport area and decided to investigate it himself. His personal undercover investigation uncovered gambling, prostitution, illegal alcohol sales and the shooting of a deputy. Fields could not prosecute the cases as these were state related and he represented the federal government. He wrote a very detailed and fiery article for the Shreveport Journal so that the press could bring these issues to the residents of Caddo Parish. He signed it as anonymous and noted he feared for his life if he had named himself as the author. It is unclear if this story ran in the paper.
Several years later he investigated the misuse of Federal funds coming to the state to assist with stimulating the country during the Great Depression. His very close friend was James A. Noe, founder of KNOE and active in the Monroe gas field. Noe had been state senator and filled in as governor when the standing governor, OK Allen, died of a stroke. Noe wanted to re-enter politics. Fields was unsure if the case he was building would be accepted in Washington due to the undying loyalty between the Louisiana administration and the Roosevelt administration. Fields wrote a detailed press release stating that he was going to Washington to request a specialist in WPS Funding. That went to the Shreveport Times. Then following his trip to Washington Noe leaked the details of the case to a famous Washington reporter named Drew Pearson. Pearson had a nationally syndicated column called The Washington Merry Go Round. When Pearson published the story the allegations had to be investigated. This led to what is referred to as the Louisiana Scandal or The Louisiana Hayride; not to be confused with the famous Louisiana Hayride radio show broadcast on KWKH in Shreveport. The scandals led to 200 people indicted to include the Louisiana Governor, President of LSU and many other officials. Two men committed suicide. The press insured that justice would be served.
So, the need to write comes from some deep desire to express disdain for oppression, complement success and tout the greatness of our beloved nation, state and community. When Scott Beeder asked me if I would like to write a column for the Gazette I was thrilled. Over the last three and a half years I have ranted over foreign policy, praised the individuals that built our country, praised the individuals that lead our community, shared overseas experiences and mourned those we have lost. I have especially enjoyed the wonderful comments from people that have read the column and all the new friends that I have made. At this time I am contemplating other interests. Through a lot of soul searching I will determine what my future has in store and will let the readers know of my decision. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life and God Bless you and the United States of America.

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Comments
  1. Jean Jones says:

    Keep writing, Tom. We need intelligent, thoughtful articles from people like you with long experience in local and national events and a passion for sharing. So keep writing something…columns, books, magazine articles, blogs…some venue to convey your thoughts.

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